As the debate for and against the Covid-19 vaccination continues, those who want to get vaccinated have now questioned the availability of the vaccine in their communities and feel they are being marginalised.
Pelican Park residents who registered to receive the vaccine have been referred to vaccination sites as far as Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital in Mitchell’s Plain, the Cape Town Internation Convention Centre (CTICC) in Cape Town, Lady Michaelis Community Day Centre in Plumstead and Retreat Community Health Centre.
While travelling to these sites by car or public transport is easy for some, Pelican Park residents say many of them struggle to buy a loaf of bread some days and spending money on travelling for a vaccination is out of the question.
Laylah Ryklief from the Pelican Park Owners’ Association (PPOA) questioned why their local clinic, the Pelican Park Community Day Centre (CDC) doesn’t administer Covid-19 vaccinations to residents. They also questioned why Covid-19 tests were only available for patients over the age 50 at the Pelican Park CDC.
“Since we moved here we have been asking for a health centre. It was much needed because more and more people started moving to Pelican Park. Now we have a facility during a pandemic but we can’t make use of it when it comes to vaccinations or tests for people under 50. We were told only medical staff are vaccinated here, then what’s the point of having the clinic here then when we can’t use it?” said Ms Ryklief.
Caroline Ables takes care of her disabled husband who registered for the vaccination and was told to go to Plumstead.
Ms Ables said her husband is desperate to get the vaccine because it could save his life if he were to get infected with Covid-19. “But he cannot walk, so we will not be able to take public transport to Plumstead.”
Vanessa Blythe had to borrow money to get her Covid-19 Pfizer vaccine at DP Marais Hospital in Retreat and had to do so twice because it’s two injections over a six-week period. “It would have been so much easier for us to go to Pelican Park CDC to get vaccinated. One of my children has to go all the way to Cape Town. Many people will not get vaccinated because they can’t afford to get to the sites.”
Ms Ryklief agreed and said many people have registered and many were keen to register but were dismayed by the possibility of having to travel far outside of their community.
Yumna Williams was told to go to Cape Town to get vaccinated but the unemployed mother of two can’t afford to go as she depends on her children’s grants.
“It’s unfair because we want to be safe and healthy by taking the vaccine but it’s difficult for us to go so far. It’s not right and I’m sure some other communities feel the same.”
Rugaya Abrahams, 59, tested positive for Covid-19 about two months ago and went to the Pelican Park CDC to get tested. She was assisted but said 10 people who were under 50 were turned away. “It makes no sense that they would deny people tests. Those people then get into a taxi to go get tested somewhere else and spread the virus”.
Responding to questions about the vaccine tests Dr Zahid Badroodien, the City of Cape Town’s Mayco member for community services and health, said about 40 people, on average, are helped at the Pelican Park CDC Covid-19 room every day.
They vary in age as each client is seen on an individual basis, where their symptoms are assessed and their vital signs are done and recorded.
“The very ill with Covid-19 symptoms are stabilised, tested for Covid-19, while awaiting an ambulance to transfer to hospital, the stable clients with Covid-19 symptoms and over the age of 45 with underlying illnesses are tested and sent home to isolate. If their results are positive, they are followed up telephonically.”
Dr Badrodien said those who are stable, with Covid-19 symptoms, but do not fit the criteria for testing, are sent home to isolate, as per the criteria.
A total of 3 250 tests have been conducted at the facility since the start of the pandemic.
Dr Badrodien added that Pelican Park CDC is a category 1B site for Covid-19 vaccinations, which means they assist with healthcare and other essential services personnel requesting vaccination.
Plans are under way to set up a mobile vaccination van in the area but up until then residents can walk into Grassy Park civic centre, Lotus River CHC, Retreat CHC, Lady Michaelis CHC or DP Marais Hospital hall to get inoculated.
Natalie Watlington, spokesperson for the Western Cape Health Department’s Southern District, said patients are meant to be booked at their nearest centre but said they are aware that there have been some issues with the EVDS (electronic vaccination data system) and patients have been booked erroneously to sites that are outside of their area.
’’We have always advised that clients can go to their nearest site, with their appointment so that they can be accommodated.“
Previously walk-ins were not welcome at vaccination sites because of availability but are now permitted.
“We are encouraging clients to walk in at sites – if they have not registered we have staff on site to assist with registration” said Ms Watlington.
The new testing criteria applies to all those with coronavirus symptoms and at least one of the following: needing hospital admission, at high risk of severe disease, ages above 45, diabetes, with obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, cancer, TB, HIV, if you’re in a cluster group setting such as old age/care homes, hospitals, schools, workplaces, hostels, prisons or are a health worker.
For more information about Covid-19 vaccine registration and sites, call the public hotline on 0800 029 999, contact the WhatsApp Help Service on 0600 123 456 on WhatsApp or call the provincial hotline on 021 928 4102 or 080 928 4102.